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  1. - Top - End - #301
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    His.
    Dang. Not sure why that keeps happening in my head.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    Also consider any steppe/grasslands area you might have could be a corridor for cultural exchange and trade via any horsepeoples who inhabit it.
    That area "behind the mountains" (leeward side) is a mix of scrubland, desert, and steppe, extending out past the edge of the map. The strip immediately east has a string of oasis villages and a couple cities fed by turpan water systems.

    Based on that easier land route north and south (no rivers, no mountains, no border issues, no forests and or subtropical jungles), I had this in my notes a few posts back:
    "* I think I want the people of the steppes and scrubland out there to have a bit more contact with the "riverlands" in the south, and for this to be a sort of back-door path for goods and information to flow between the main campaign area and that far-off region. So I'm not sure what that area north of the river as it rises in elevation should actually be like in terms of terrain, or what to put in that transition space."

    Still trying to figure out what I want that transition zone to be like.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-08-14 at 06:56 PM.
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  2. - Top - End - #302
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Scale here is blowing my mind a bit -- it's sometimes hard to believe that these competing city-states were this close together for all those centuries.

    Athens to Corinth -- 85 km
    Athens to Thebes -- 90 km
    Athens to Sparta -- 230 km
    Athens to Mt Olympus -- 430 km
    Athens to Pella -- 540 km

    Athens to The Bosphorus -- 1100 km (by land)
    Athens to Vienna -- 1700 km
    Athens to Tyre - 2700 km (by land)


    For comparison, on the map shown upthread, the intent was for 2000 km to be roughly the distance from Godorod to the "capital" of the "horse celts".

    So all the famous Greek city-states could fit into the space between Nomos, Zarada, and the western coast of the mainland, tucked into that one part.

    Hmm. I think that will actually work out for some of the other things I wanted to do.

    Still need to come up with a few more prominent city-states for that area. The "big concept" cities are relatively easy, it's the others that present more of a challenge because there's no immediate hook to build around.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-08-15 at 07:23 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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  3. - Top - End - #303
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    You've identified a common failing of fantasy settings. Making places too far apart. It's like those with timelines that are too long, putting long spaces between everything.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    I've been reading up on the Anzillu again, trying to get some ideas for what the pre-fall political arrangements of the world might have looked like.

    Skipping back a little:
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Snake people. Rarely seen. Rumored to have an empire far to the south or beyond the edge of the ocean. Present an inscrutable front when dealing with humans. Would be "naga" or "yuan ti" in another setting, but those have heavy implications or copyright issues, and "Lamia" fits the atmosphere. So far I can't decide between the alien, fantastic aspect of being snake-body from the waist down, or the practicality of being bipedal, and it's not going to be the both or the back-and-forth that others have done.
    Snakes from the waist down! FWIW, I feel like the Faceless, the Lamia, and some integrated Deva/Nephilim caste are the juiciest options at the moment, but... if you really twist my arm:

    * Tirzuk- maybe nocturnal to the point of using echolocation, and communicate at frequencies humans can't hear or pronounce, leading to reliance on sign language for barter or diplomacy?
    * Gaz- thousand-year lifespans, so immensely skilled and dangerous by human standards (like elves by all rights should be), along with large populations thanks to reduced metabolic demands? Haven't taken over world because... <reason X>?
    * Wilder- chameleon-style camouflage/communication? Human subspecies? Alternatively, maori-style intense tattooing as a form of animistic magic?

    If you wanted, you could make certain 'species' a question of magical recessive genetics within the human population, like blue eyes or lobeless ears or D&D-sorcery. And Indian cultures obviously had some funky stuff going on with reincarnation cycles and gender-bending, if you wanted to mix those in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    You've identified a common failing of fantasy settings. Making places too far apart. It's like those with timelines that are too long, putting long spaces between everything.
    EDIT: So... do you want to spitball any ideas for colony-cities further up or down the coast?
    Last edited by Lacuna Caster; 2017-08-16 at 05:06 PM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    I've been reading up on the Anzillu again, trying to get some ideas for what the pre-fall political arrangements of the world might have looked like.

    Skipping back a little:

    Snakes from the waist down! FWIW, I feel like the Faceless, the Lamia, and some integrated Deva/Nephilim caste are the juiciest options at the moment, but... if you really twist my arm:

    * Tirzuk- maybe nocturnal to the point of using echolocation, and communicate at frequencies humans can't hear or pronounce, leading to reliance on sign language for barter or diplomacy?
    * Gaz- thousand-year lifespans, so immensely skilled and dangerous by human standards (like elves by all rights should be), along with large populations thanks to reduced metabolic demands? Haven't taken over world because... <reason X>?
    * Wilder- chameleon-style camouflage/communication? Human subspecies? Alternatively, maori-style intense tattooing as a form of animistic magic?

    If you wanted, you could make certain 'species' a question of magical recessive genetics within the human population, like blue eyes or lobeless ears or D&D-sorcery. And Indian cultures obviously had some funky stuff going on with reincarnation cycles and gender-bending, if you wanted to mix those in.
    "Magical recessive genetics" is kinda what I was going for with the aforementioned "strangeblood" -- humans who have a far distant ancestor or two who "intermingled" with one of the other species... or darker things... in days long gone, when lost fertility rites and Anzillu amusements made such pairings more likely to bear fruit. It can go

    I was actually thinking of having one of the species, maybe the Gaz, reincarnate with more and more access to their past memories as they mature.

    If I include the Deva/Nephalim "caste" you're thinking of, I'm not sure if they should be playable or so bound to their station that they'd not really be playable.

    ( PS: when your post included "snakes from the waist down all the way" I was going to say "Yeah, having a snake tail and then feet at the end would be too much. )


    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    EDIT: So... do you want to spitball any ideas for colony-cities further up or down the coast?
    I'll see what I can post to help inform that, in terms of what's going on in those areas (culture and civilization).


    Heads up, I'm going to my first GenCon ever this weekend, so I'll be busy packing tomorrow night, on the road Friday morning and in the convention Friday afternoon, Saturday, and part of Sunday, and then back Monday -- in case I go quiet or don't reply to something for several days?

    .
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-08-17 at 08:31 AM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    "Magical recessive genetics" is kinda what I was going for with the aforementioned "strangeblood" -- humans who have a far distant ancestor or two who "intermingled" with one of the other species... or darker things... in days long gone, when lost fertility rites and Anzillu amusements made such pairings more likely to bear fruit. It can go

    I was actually thinking of having one of the species, maybe the Gaz, reincarnate with more and more access to their past memories as they mature.

    If I include the Deva/Nephalim "caste" you're thinking of, I'm not sure if they should be playable or so bound to their station that they'd not really be playable.
    You might be thinking of this in terms of "does this character have a ready excuse to go adventure in distant lands?", but I kind of see it the other way. If a given campaign is focused on whatever threatens or upends a particular local polity, then characters who are strongly embedded in or native to said area are the most compelled to engage. That's partly why I'd like to see some non-humans as an integrated cultural feature- that way you can pick a location at random and know that background option will be available.

    Speaking of which- do you have any further ideas for where to place the various non-human homelands? Several seem to be protected by their relative isolation, with the Faceless underground, the Gaz across the desert and the Lamia on their tabletop mountains, which I think makes sense. I'm lazily associating the Tirzuk with the horse-celt culture by default, and the Wilder/Maori comparison makes me wonder if the not-elves could fit in as an island-hopping seafarer culture along the offshore archipelago?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    You might be thinking of this in terms of "does this character have a ready excuse to go adventure in distant lands?", but I kind of see it the other way. If a given campaign is focused on whatever threatens or upends a particular local polity, then characters who are strongly embedded in or native to said area are the most compelled to engage. That's partly why I'd like to see some non-humans as an integrated cultural feature- that way you can pick a location at random and know that background option will be available.
    Hmmm.

    At least in the major cities, there's justification for enough of the "common" non-humans to around to be options.

    What I meant by "bound to their station"... is it socially acceptable for this special caste to be out and about risking their lives and being free and so on, or would they be confined to their station and place that it's not fitting? Consider whether the oracular priestesses of Delphi would probably not be out running around on adventures, as one example.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Speaking of which- do you have any further ideas for where to place the various non-human homelands? Several seem to be protected by their relative isolation, with the Faceless underground, the Gaz across the desert and the Lamia on their tabletop mountains, which I think makes sense. I'm lazily associating the Tirzuk with the horse-celt culture by default, and the Wilder/Maori comparison makes me wonder if the not-elves could fit in as an island-hopping seafarer culture along the offshore archipelago?
    Wilder homeland -- Just about any expanse of untouched deep forest. With their current concept they're culturally tied to the trees... the older and bigger the trees, the better. I think I'd have to ditch that to make them into "sea people" / "island hoppers".

    Tirzuk homeland -- They need to be spread out. They need meat, but there could be a split and tension between those who maintain an old hunting lifestyle, and those who have taken up herding.


    Maori... have to think about that. Might be an expy-too-far.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    What I meant by "bound to their station"... is it socially acceptable for this special caste to be out and about risking their lives and being free and so on, or would they be confined to their station and place that it's not fitting? Consider whether the oracular priestesses of Delphi would probably not be out running around on adventures, as one example.
    Probably not, but they'd be very active formulating prophesies, advising local rulers and foreign envoys, and possibly providing other ritual magic services to heal the afflicted or curse foes. You don't need to pick up a sword if you can convince other cities to go to war.

    They'd have duties and obligations, sure, but that's not different from the knight's vows of allegiance or the assassin paying dues to their guild. A senior artisan or weaver might be commissioned to provide military equipment or the sceptre for a coronation or to repair a mystic tapestry. Heck, if a drought is destroying food supplies, then a farmer-PC could be of vital interest, struggling to eke every drop from the water table for a new irrigation system.

    Wilder homeland -- Just about any expanse of untouched deep forest. With their current concept they're culturally tied to the trees... the older and bigger the trees, the better. I think I'd have to ditch that to make them into "sea people" / "island hoppers".
    Deep jungle would be the logical place then? That said, tropical islands would be one of the last places the logging crews would reach, and there's no inherent requirement that all members of the species share the same culture or allegiance. You do have at least one Kataru who looks after nature and hunting, so would sacred groves be a staple feature in certain polities?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    EDIT: So... do you want to spitball any ideas for colony-cities further up or down the coast?
    Best place to start is with the founder-cities. Who's been sending out colonies, and why? Is it population pressures or political upheaval at home, or the pull-factor of seeking out new markets or resources abroad to bring back to the mother-city?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    Best place to start is with the founder-cities. Who's been sending out colonies, and why? Is it population pressures or political upheaval at home, or the pull-factor of seeking out new markets or resources abroad to bring back to the mother-city?
    I'm trying to flesh out the central area there as described earlier.

    Considering moving the two "war cities" down into that area to add to the political tension and generally stir the pot.

    Need more cities in that area beyond the catchy hooks of "ultra-commercial quasi-Corinth", "ultra-rule-of-law quasi-Athens", the city that fell in its own hole, etc.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Probably not, but they'd be very active formulating prophesies, advising local rulers and foreign envoys, and possibly providing other ritual magic services to heal the afflicted or curse foes. You don't need to pick up a sword if you can convince other cities to go to war.

    They'd have duties and obligations, sure, but that's not different from the knight's vows of allegiance or the assassin paying dues to their guild. A senior artisan or weaver might be commissioned to provide military equipment or the sceptre for a coronation or to repair a mystic tapestry. Heck, if a drought is destroying food supplies, then a farmer-PC could be of vital interest, struggling to eke every drop from the water table for a new irrigation system.
    That opens up options for different sorts of campaigns. I tend to project my own favorite past campaigns as templates for games without thinking about it... but I bet one could mix the social-political focus of a (not pretentious) Vampire game with the intense internal dynamics of a "Greco-Sumerian" city-state to create something good. Still room for some combat and/or exploration, but it opens up a broader selection of character types and stories.

    Not sure about the farmer, though.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Deep jungle would be the logical place then? That said, tropical islands would be one of the last places the logging crews would reach, and there's no inherent requirement that all members of the species share the same culture or allegiance. You do have at least one Kataru who looks after nature and hunting, so would sacred groves be a staple feature in certain polities?
    There is something to be said for the image of Wilder moving through the rigging of a big, sort of Polynesian-style boat, recognizable but not quite the same as their mainland cousins.

    I just don't want to get into the whole "wood elf", "sea elf", "this elf", "that elf" thing.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    There is something to be said for the image of Wilder moving through the rigging of a big, sort of Polynesian-style boat, recognizable but not quite the same as their mainland cousins.

    I just don't want to get into the whole "wood elf", "sea elf", "this elf", "that elf" thing.
    You're probably going to hate this comparison, but I just realised these guys are straight out of cameron's Avatar. Which... I am actually okay with, but also realise that others' mileage may vary.

    On the Lamia- I'd actually wonder if these fellas aren't partially integrated with the lowland populace as a kind of priestly caste, playing off the Mayincatec Quetzalcoatl/Rainbow Serpent angle, unless that's too on the nose? I'm also a little curious about their reproductive cycle and food requirements. (Being both obligate carnivores and cold blooded would have the neat effect of cancelling out in terms of trophic demands, for example, so their population densities could be theoretically similar to human cultures.)

    Delighted as I am with the image of subterranean quasi-human horrors, I think there's a similar question for the Faceless- do they have some method of cultivating the surface or trading for food supplies, or is there an underdark-style subsurface ecosystem for them to live off?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    You're probably going to hate this comparison, but I just realised these guys are straight out of cameron's Avatar. Which... I am actually okay with, but also realise that others' mileage may vary.
    I can see the parallels, but their behavior and culture as I picture it don't line up that well, and there's no one great mama spirit or collective of spirits.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    On the Lamia- I'd actually wonder if these fellas aren't partially integrated with the lowland populace as a kind of priestly caste, playing off the Mayincatec Quetzalcoatl/Rainbow Serpent angle, unless that's too on the nose? I'm also a little curious about their reproductive cycle and food requirements. (Being both obligate carnivores and cold blooded would have the neat effect of cancelling out in terms of trophic demands, for example, so their population densities could be theoretically similar to human cultures.)
    I was considering making the lowland culture something of a blend of "southeast Asia" and Mesoamerican... it's hard to find a culture that fits a lowland subtropical cenotic landscape that's also close to the Near East.

    Somewhere deep in that landscape, I could see a small band of Lamia taking up residence and influence under the pretense of being the harbingers or "blessed" of a local "snake god".


    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Delighted as I am with the image of subterranean quasi-human horrors, I think there's a similar question for the Faceless- do they have some method of cultivating the surface or trading for food supplies, or is there an underdark-style subsurface ecosystem for them to live off?
    Many of the places they live are ruins, and there, they're not so far from the surface. They could come out at night to work the fields. Or they could have slaves to work the fields. Have to think about that.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I was considering making the lowland culture something of a blend of "southeast Asia" and Mesoamerican... it's hard to find a culture that fits a lowland subtropical cenotic landscape .

    *cough*

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    *cough*

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    from 1975's Empire of the Petal Throne RPG.
    Will definitely be worth a read, but I don't want to lift wholesale parts of existing fictional settings.


    EDIT: the "post-technological age" worldbuilding backstory seems to be a recurring thing in "milieu" of the early RPG era, see also Vance's influence on Gygax.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-08-22 at 10:15 PM.
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    This might be a little late to the party with regards to fantasy races, but I'm partial to human-dominated games. For the sake of options, however, races are undoubtedly a good thing. To marry the two, I think your idea to have magical lineage is a good one and fits in with the source material quite well. You could take that further and have all of your races be descendants of magical beings:
    • Godblooded - the descendants of demigods like Orion, Heracles, etc.; drawn to higher social stations and their families are well respected (if their lineage is known).
    • Dragonblooded - not all dragons seek to devour the maidens offered up in sacrifice
    • Tauricblooded - descendants of Minotaurs, centaurs, or other hybrid creations (could be similar to shifters from Eberron in choosing a cool animalistic ability)
    • Djinnblooded - the mingling of the desert djinn and humans (I'd envision them as having strong magical ability, natural sorcerers?)
    • Demonblooded - the descendants of some infernal creature; have some power that's fueled by corruption or sin


    You could have other ways to make humans just a little bit different besides lineage as well:
    • Avatar - the chosen of a god to act on their behalf in some capacity
    • Fated - destined for greatness, they can't die until they've completed their task
    • Infused - powered by divine energies after coming into contact with a magical location or substance as a child (like the River Styx)


    I feel like these backgrounds can have varying degrees of rarity and be regarded differently in the various regions of your world. The Djinnblooded might be well respected in the desert areas, but looked down upon in the tropical jungles as an abomination.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    This might be a little late to the party with regards to fantasy races, but I'm partial to human-dominated games. For the sake of options, however, races are undoubtedly a good thing. To marry the two, I think your idea to have magical lineage is a good one and fits in with the source material quite well. You could take that further and have all of your races be descendants of magical beings:
    There's plenty of room for options without including non-human races. There's an expectation within D&D for them, but that can generally be handled just as well with human cultural groups anyways.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    I want players to concentrate on humans, but I also want the setting to include these other peoples to interact with.

    And there will be players who want to play other things, so IMO the others need to be set up as optionally playable if a GM chooses to open that section up to players.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    I feel like these backgrounds can have varying degrees of rarity and be regarded differently in the various regions of your world. The Djinnblooded might be well respected in the desert areas, but looked down upon in the tropical jungles as an abomination.
    I think Max was talking about 'strangeblood' individuals a few posts back, so this might not be a bad idea, but I don't think he listed djinn or dragons or even demons in the conventional sense as setting elements? (I did imagine that Devas/Nephilim could be distant descendants of some divine progenitor, for what it's worth, but that's pending approval.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Many of the places they live are ruins, and there, they're not so far from the surface. They could come out at night to work the fields. Or they could have slaves to work the fields. Have to think about that.
    You could always declare that the curse of the Faceless is magical enough that they don't have to worry about conventional sustenance?

    I have been wondering if there's some real-world mythological equivalent to the wilders, aside from the obvious nymph/faun parallels. Would the vedic yakshas work as nature spirits?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I want players to concentrate on humans, but I also want the setting to include these other peoples to interact with.

    And there will be players who want to play other things, so IMO the others need to be set up as optionally playable if a GM chooses to open that section up to players.
    If you include non-humans, no matter how you present them, chances are you'll get a PC party with 50% or more non-humans. Unless the players are properly bought in to the premise, you'll get the standard fantasy menagerie regardless.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    If you include non-humans, no matter how you present them, chances are you'll get a PC party with 50% or more non-humans. Unless the players are properly bought in to the premise, you'll get the standard fantasy menagerie regardless.
    You are quite possibly correct.

    But player choice space matters to me quite a bit.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    This might be a little late to the party with regards to fantasy races, but I'm partial to human-dominated games. For the sake of options, however, races are undoubtedly a good thing. To marry the two, I think your idea to have magical lineage is a good one and fits in with the source material quite well. You could take that further and have all of your races be descendants of magical beings:
    • Godblooded - the descendants of demigods like Orion, Heracles, etc.; drawn to higher social stations and their families are well respected (if their lineage is known).
    • Dragonblooded - not all dragons seek to devour the maidens offered up in sacrifice
    • Tauricblooded - descendants of Minotaurs, centaurs, or other hybrid creations (could be similar to shifters from Eberron in choosing a cool animalistic ability)
    • Djinnblooded - the mingling of the desert djinn and humans (I'd envision them as having strong magical ability, natural sorcerers?)
    • Demonblooded - the descendants of some infernal creature; have some power that's fueled by corruption or sin


    You could have other ways to make humans just a little bit different besides lineage as well:
    • Avatar - the chosen of a god to act on their behalf in some capacity
    • Fated - destined for greatness, they can't die until they've completed their task
    • Infused - powered by divine energies after coming into contact with a magical location or substance as a child (like the River Styx)


    I feel like these backgrounds can have varying degrees of rarity and be regarded differently in the various regions of your world. The Djinnblooded might be well respected in the desert areas, but looked down upon in the tropical jungles as an abomination.
    While the details are a bit different, that is the general idea of the "strangeblood".

    (A lot of the specifics aren't quite germane to this particular setting.)
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    While some strangebloods are clearly the product of Anzillu interference (possibly breeding?), are there other powers that be that could induce such a change? What about exposure to raw magic, or the Kataru deliberately uplifting an important bloodline? For that matter, how did the Kataru become as powerful as they did? Certainly some of them stole power from the Anzillu by interacting with them, but is that true for all of them? Maybe certain areas are inherently wells of power. Maybe artifacts wielded by the Kataru or touched by the Anzillu during the uprising are so magically potent that even handling one leaves its mark on the genetic code for centuries to come?

    I'm just trying to find sources of strangeblood besides the obvious, which raises weird questions about the origins of the other sentient species. I personally think alien races lose something when they're biologically similar enough that we can produce viable offspring together.

    Anyways, that's my two cents. Love this thread and what you guys have done with it.

    P.S. For your bug/parasite Anzillu, have you looked at Cymothoa exigua? There's a lot of potential for some creepy alien-ness when you have an Anzillu replacing its servants' limbs and organs with fully functional parasites, like a cyborg but with bugs.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    While some strangebloods are clearly the product of Anzillu interference (possibly breeding?), are there other powers that be that could induce such a change? What about exposure to raw magic, or the Kataru deliberately uplifting an important bloodline? For that matter, how did the Kataru become as powerful as they did? Certainly some of them stole power from the Anzillu by interacting with them, but is that true for all of them? Maybe certain areas are inherently wells of power. Maybe artifacts wielded by the Kataru or touched by the Anzillu during the uprising are so magically potent that even handling one leaves its mark on the genetic code for centuries to come?

    I'm just trying to find sources of strangeblood besides the obvious, which raises weird questions about the origins of the other sentient species. I personally think alien races lose something when they're biologically similar enough that we can produce viable offspring together.
    In the present time of the setting, for both social and biological reasons, it's very rare to see the equivalent of a D&D half-breed born. It used to happen more, but even then not naturally. As you note, the Anzillu had their amusements -- and there were fertility rites (and charms and potions and whatnot) now lost to the turning of the ages.

    This doesn't stop certain sorts of spirits or spirit-deities from occasionally "adding something to the stew"... they're not bound by the rules of biology. A couple of the Kataru have even done so a few times. Dalkhu-summoning sorcerers get up to all sorts of shenanigans.

    There's potential in your suggestions about places and objects of power sometimes affecting bloodlines as well.

    I don't want it to be formulaic. Someone might have excellent night vision, and it could be because their great-great-grandfather was actually a cat spirit in disguise, or it could be because somewhere far back in both parents' families there were Wilder ancestors, or because their grandmother was dabling in forbidden magic, or...


    Spoiler: Dalkhu explained...
    Show

    All of reality is, in crude terms, the corpse of an infinite entity from before time (one of the Anzillu), and what she did was more "mad science" than noble sacrifice. Before the "first moment", all of reality was without time and form, and the Anzillu were infinite, and all that existed was because of their imaginations and whims, but nothing could exist independenently... they were the "minds and souls" of the universem, and if one of them lost interest in a thing they had made, it would be as if that thing had never existed. The "creator" Anzillu was trying to make independent, objective things that could exist and live and think and act on their own, but in doing so she "collapsed the wave form" and gave up here own existence, her infinite self providing the energy and matter and spirit for the infinite universe.

    There was bound to be "stuff" out of that infinity that wouldn't work, wasn't needed, as part of the living world of finite, independent, discrete things and spirits she was trying to make.

    The Dalku are the ashes and embers left from her fire, all the parts that would have made the living world eat away at itself... they're dark spirits made up of all the stuff that didn't go into creating the living world. Conceptually, they're a conjunction of old beliefs about "unclean spirits" and demons, "ashes and dark waters" imagery from several places (for example, Pink Floyd's Sorrow) that fascinates me, and the nature of the setting's creation.

    There's a scene in my head where one of the less-sane (which is relative) Anzillu is ranting at mortals about "maggots wriggling in a corpse", and they don't understand that it's talking about every living thing in the universe...


    Spoiler: Kataru power explained...
    Show

    The Kataru engaged in a very deliberate plan of apotheosis and revolt, driven by the original ambition that lead them to meet the Anzillu face to face, the raw willpower to survive doing so with their sanity intact, and truths about most of their gods wanting nothing more than to resurrect the dead sibling even if it meant the end of everything.

    There were originally 12 Kataru... one was destroyed in the attacks on the Anzillu (Ares-like "glory and slaughter" sort) and another reduced to a sort of undying death (now the god of the dead).

    They suppress knowledge of their true origin, and the secrets of their apotheosis... they have effectively "pulled the ladder up behind them".


    Spoiler: Here's an early draft of their origin.
    Show

    Those who would become the Kataru, the "most high gods", began their lives as mortal men and women, in an age and place now shrouded in myth and legend, before the rise of the current civilizations. Warriors, mystics, princes, shamans, poets, wonder-makers, scoundrels, schemers... whatever path they were on, they were driven and different, people who would have become great heroes and villains in any age.

    The culture of that time venerated nature and ancestor spirits. There were also other spirits, powerful but dark, of unfathomable motives, demons and tricksters, disconnected from the natural world. The most powerful of these dark spirits were effectively the gods of this time... granting their favor to those who were able to please their inscrutable minds. But their presence, or even their influence, seemed liable twist or even corrupt where it lingered overlong. Only those of the strongest will dared commune with their gods, lest their minds be corroded. Some were outright capricious, going so far as to demand the blood of ten thousand one hundred and one people, and then purging in fire the city that answered the call. But still, their worship spread and grew.

    The future Kataru were drawn to the power of these gods, and had the will and the fortitude to stand in the dark fire of their presence. Intrigued, the Anzillu took these already powerful and renowned mortals under their wings. They were granted access to the courts in the realms beyond, and dined with their deities, and partook of their pleasures and knowledge. Even as they became veritable demigods themselves, these mortals learned the terrible secrets and saw the often childlike nature of the Anzillu, and how they were by any human standard, monsters. Some Anzillu even sought to unmake the world, gather the shards, and find a way to bring back their lost sibling. The mortal men and women were confronted with eventual oblivion at the hands of their own gods.

    They determined, among themselves, to put a stop to it. Through trickery, theft, or betrayal, the Kataru learned how they themselves might become gods, and how they might bind the Anzillu away from the world. They learned the ways in which mortal faith and reverence granted strength to a spirit, and how a spirit could become a god. So they sought fame, and glory, and did great deeds, and secretly arranged for monuments to themselves, and covertly spread rumors of their own divinity and the wickedness of the Anzillu, across as much of the world as they could reach. Their final mortal act was a ritual to ascend bodily into the other realms, leaving no corpses behind, and keeping their full selves in a way no normal soul would. Across the known world, they were beloved, and legend, rumored to be the children of gods or gods who had walked among mortals for a time... a self-fulfilling belief.

    One by one, they sought out and vanquished the old dark gods. Unable to destroy them, instead they left them trapped in undying tombs, lost and forgotten stone prisons, locked away for eternity. The battles boiled seas, split the earth, wrecked cities, and toppled the great civilizations of the age, resetting mortal history and leaving only legends and myths of the time. With no written records, the Kataru could teach their mortal followers any history they cared to, and so they did. They painted the Anzillu not as the tragic fallen souls of the very universe, who none the less had to be contained to save the mortal world, but rather as alien usurper demons and pretender-gods, who had overthrown the true creator of the universe and sent the Kataru into exile in a long lost time.

    As for the Anzillu, they remain locked away, and only their servants -- the Dalkhu, beings born of everything left over after the breath of life was spread across all of creation by the lost Anzillu sibling -- remained free, too numerous and scattered to be tracked down to the last.




    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    P.S. For your bug/parasite Anzillu, have you looked at Cymothoa exigua? There's a lot of potential for some creepy alien-ness when you have an Anzillu replacing its servants' limbs and organs with fully functional parasites, like a cyborg but with bugs.
    That's a good suggestion; we talked about zombie fungus earlier in the thread.

    There's a lot of entirely-too-creepy material to work with even if sticking to real things...


    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    Anyways, that's my two cents. Love this thread and what you guys have done with it.
    Thank you.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-08-25 at 11:07 AM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    On the subjects of colonization and trade in the ancient world:



    ~~~~

    Interesting find related to ancient mathematics:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2...322-video-spd/
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-08-25 at 12:44 PM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    You are quite possibly correct.

    But player choice space matters to me quite a bit.
    I had something similar arise in my historical game. I pitched that it would take place in Massalia, a Greek outpost in a Celtic world. The concepts I got were a Makedonian soldier (he's potentially different enough for snobs not to regard him as even Greek), a Celtic princess (that works), a Latin war-merchant (not from too far away, but neither Greek nor Celtic) and an Alexandrian Jew (again neither). So only one out of four was an easy fit.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    I had something similar arise in my historical game. I pitched that it would take place in Massalia, a Greek outpost in a Celtic world. The concepts I got were a Makedonian soldier (he's potentially different enough for snobs not to regard him as even Greek), a Celtic princess (that works), a Latin war-merchant (not from too far away, but neither Greek nor Celtic) and an Alexandrian Jew (again neither). So only one out of four was an easy fit.

    I read through the notes about that campaign via the link in your sig, and all four PCs (and their "retainers") seemed like very interesting characters.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    I was going to suggest that the first session of a campaign could involve picking a particular geographical hotspot, which then tells you what backgrounds are available, and character generation would be done within that session as a group activity- e.g, you'd go around the table adding life-paths and NPC connections for each player, fleshing out the initial concept by stages. That way you can guarantee that all the PCs are invested in local politics and make sense for the area. (Mouse Guard does something similar, albeit with a central court-of-camelot location that all PCs belong to- it's actually quite a fun process.)
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    I was going to suggest that the first session of a campaign could involve picking a particular geographical hotspot, which then tells you what backgrounds are available, and character generation would be done within that session as a group activity- e.g, you'd go around the table adding life-paths and NPC connections for each player, fleshing out the initial concept by stages. That way you can guarantee that all the PCs are invested in local politics and make sense for the area. (Mouse Guard does something similar, albeit with a central court-of-camelot location that all PCs belong to- it's actually quite a fun process.)
    A bit different, but our old gaming group(s) always did one-on-one "preludes" -- a lot of our games involved PC secrets and intrigue that didn't lend as well to an open collaborative "session 0".

    Whoever was GMing had a one-page questionnaire or similar, that asked questions trying to get the players to think about the same things you're suggesting, and getting them tied into and invested in the local setting.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    We always do a "session 0" where we create characters together, though as above that doesn't stop people arriving at concepts which aren't perfectly aligned with the premise. What it does is make for a more collaborative group, which is our general goal.
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